Missouri drive-in reopening after 39 years

Refurbishment is well underway from the looks of this screen capture from a video on the Rock ‘N’ Roll Drive-In’s Facebook page.

Here’s more great news about the resuscitation of another long-dead drive-in. This time it’s the old Montgomery Drive-In in southeast Missouri. It closed after the 1981 season, but work is underway to reopen it this October as the Rock ‘N’ Roll Drive-In.

The new/old drive-in is about five miles due west of the Cape Girardeau Regional Airport. News reports call the community Blomeyer, an unincorporated area of Cape Girardeau County. The business sharing the site today gets its mail from the city of Chaffee, which is where the old drive-in lists placed it. Enough about that.

The original Montgomery held its grand opening on Easter Sunday, April 10, 1955, the same day Home of the Stars Drive-In also opened in Chaffee. That competitor closed in less than a decade. The Montgomery, owned first by Bernice Montgomery, had to rebuild its screen after a storm blew down the original redwood version in 1965. The new screen was made of steel-reinforced concrete. Clearly, it was built right.

That sturdy concrete screen is the focal point of Rock-in-Roll Drive-In co-owners Chuck Stratton and Jonny Tosarello. They’re working to clear the viewing field and clean the foliage off the screen, as they described to KFVS, Cape Girardeau’s News Leader. (That link includes a video. Wish I could have embedded it for you.)

Stratton told the SE Missouri State student newspaper, the Arrow, that he plans to charge by the Carload. Food trucks and a concession stand will provide the dining experience.

Tosarello said they were adding a new wrinkle. “We’re going to put effect lighting in all the trees and speakers in all the trees, and we’re going to time load those to the movies. So, when you’re watching a movie, something explodes, all the trees will turn red.” Let’s hope someone captures a video of that.

Video: How The 66 Looks At Night

Since I posted a video of a dead drive-in a few days ago, you deserve to see a gorgeous living drive-in video. This one was posted by KSNF (Joplin MO’s News Leader) on YouTube earlier this year when Avengers: Endgame sold out the 66 Drive-In Theatre in Carthage earlier in the evening.

The 66 is a beautiful drive-in by day, with manicured grass in its front yard framing its retro sign along old Route 66. It was the perfect choice for the cover photo of my new book, Drive-Ins of Route 66. I’m sad to say that when I took that picture, my schedule didn’t permit me to stay for the show that night, and this video gives me a glimpse of what I missed. The glowing sign was not a surprise, but I hadn’t noticed the clever Sold Out sign, and that ticket booth looks amazing.

Another regret is how little room I gave it in my book; I expect to expand its entry in my next edition. As I wrote, the 66 opened on the west side of Carthage on Sept. 22, 1949, about a month after the Sunset opened on the east side of town. The Sunset closed in the early 1970s, but the 66 persists despite a 12-year hiccup. As I wrote:

“Here is your icon of drive-in theaters, Route 66, and more. William Bradfield opened the 66 and ran it for over a decade before selling to the Dickinson chain, which closed it in 1985. Mark and Dixie Goodman bought the place and turned it into an auto parts junkyard. In 1997, they added projection equipment and reopened the drive-in. Twenty years later, the Goodmans sold the 66 to its former security guard Nathan McDonald and his family. Today the drive-in’s grounds and buildings look as nice as brand new, but with a healthy retro flavor.”

Despite a fair amount of digging and some help from Carthage historians, I still haven’t found any real photos of the Sunset. That’s not a problem for the 66. Every picture from this year looks as good as all of its many past photos, and now I know that some of its videos are better yet.

Video: What’s Left Of Springfield’s Holiday

If you’ve been waiting for more drive-in videos taken by drone, here you go. Unlike most of those that I’ve posted on Carload, this one, posted to YouTube last year, is of a dead drive-in, the Holiday of Springfield MO. (And don’t adjust your speakers, this video is silent.)

As I wrote in my new book Drive-Ins of Route 66, the Holiday opened late, on August 13, 1970. Commonwealth Theatres planned for the Holiday to have two screens, one for 490 cars and the second for 509. That didn’t happen, possibly for reasons related to construction delays. The Holiday closed in 1981, then was revived briefly by another operator during 1994-96.

Now over 20 years later, you can see that the sign and fields are still pretty well preserved. That section closest to the road is just begging to be converted to a second viewing field, and the original ramps are still visible in the grass. Since the decades have suggested that there’s no better, more urgent use for the site, wouldn’t it be nice if someone used it to bring drive-in entertainment back to the good people of Springfield?